Free, unlinked glycosylphosphatidylinositols on mammalian cell surfaces revisited

J Biol Chem. 2019 Mar 29;294(13):5038-5049. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA119.007472. Epub 2019 Feb 6.


Glycosylphosphatidylinositols (GPIs) are linked to many cell-surface proteins, anchor these proteins in the membrane, and are well characterized. However, GPIs that exist in the free form on the mammalian cell surface remain largely unexplored. To investigate free GPIs in cultured cell lines and mouse tissues, here we used the T5-4E10 mAb (T5 mAb), which recognizes unlinked GPIs having an N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) side chain linked to the first mannose at the nonreducing terminus. We detected free GPIs bearing the GalNAc side chain on the surface of Neuro2a and CHO, but not of HEK293, K562, and C2C12 cells. Furthermore, free GPIs were present in mouse pons, medulla oblongata, spinal cord, testis, epididymis, and kidney. Using a panel of Chinese hamster ovary cells defective in both GPI-transamidase and GPI remodeling pathway, we demonstrate that free GPIs follow the same structural remodeling pathway during passage from the endoplasmic reticulum to the plasma membrane as do protein-linked GPI. Specifically, free GPIs underwent post-GPI attachment to protein 1 (PGAP1)-mediated inositol deacylation, PGAP5-mediated removal of the ethanolamine phosphate from the second mannose, and PGAP3- and PGAP2-mediated fatty acid remodeling. Moreover, T5 mAb recognized free GPIs even if the inositol-linked acyl chain or ethanolamine-phosphate side chain linked to the second mannose is not removed. In contrast, addition of a fourth mannose by phosphatidylinositol glycan anchor biosynthesis class Z (PIGZ) inhibited T5 mAb-mediated detection of free GPIs. Our results indicate that free GPIs are normal components of the plasma membrane in some tissues and further characterize free GPIs in mammalian cells.

Keywords: GPI transamidase; N-acetylgalactosamine; fatty acid remodeling; galactose; glycan biology; glycolipid; glycosylation; glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI anchor); membrane lipid; post-translational modification (PTM).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Cricetulus
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Glycosylphosphatidylinositols / analysis
  • Glycosylphosphatidylinositols / metabolism*
  • Golgi Apparatus / metabolism
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL


  • Fatty Acids
  • Glycosylphosphatidylinositols